In 2009, both the Mayor and Police Chief of Atlantic Beach were arrested for DUI. The Atlantic Beach Mayor's arrest was the last in a series of arrests and run ins with the law. Those arrests, along with other political controversies, prompted some to call for Atlantic Beach to be a town no more. Those calls prompted calls of racism as Atlantic Beach is a historically African American vacation venue.
Well, perhaps it is time to put aside that sort of talk and time to test the drinking water down along the Grand Strand. The city of Surfside Beach now has its own problems with public officials and the law. According to published reports, on the night of January 7th, Surfside Beach Mayor Allen Deaton was arrested for DUI by Surfside Beach police. That arrest comes eight days after the arrest of Surfside Beach Public Works Director Ty Taylor for having an open container of beer in a town vehicle. So far, there have been no demands for Surfside Beach to be have its town charter revoked.
There are two observations to note what is going on in local government along the Grand Strand. First, the arrests along the Grand Strand are evidence of why local elections matter and why people should pay attention to who they are electing and what they do while in office.
The second observation is perhaps the more important. Things are no longer like they used to be. Law enforcement and other officials now act without mercy or consideration of who who is who. Some applaud that. Such is certainly better than the good ole boy system of years ago when those "in the loop" could get away with anything and those of out of it would be arrested for jaywalking or looking at someones wife.
Think about how different things are now. Years ago, had a small town mayor been stopped and found drunk, chances are the police would drive him home, and the police chief would then have a chip to play in the political game. A fellow city worker not driving drunk but with an open beer would have likely been told to pour the beer out and get home.
People call that the good ole boy system. But, frankly, it was not all that different than what others found in encounters with police in small towns years ago. Teenagers caught with beer would have the beer taken from them, and then the police take them home, where the officers would tell the parents about what the teenager had been up to. Now, the teenagers are arrested and carry a record with them.
People tend to forget this, but fighting was handled the same way. Two good ole boys got in a fight, the police would break it up. That usually ended it. Now, people are arrested for just saying they are going to fight someone.
Law enforcement has a slew of good reasons to play things so tightly now. Liability is a factor, gangs are a factor, as is the general breakdown in respect and civility that people seem to have with one another. VUI learned firsthand this week that a handshake and a verbal agreement does not mean anything anymore. The days of letting Otis have the key to the Mayberry jail to let himself in are over.
We live in a different world. One in which everyone, including law enforcement are on edge, and the opportunities of giving leeway to common sense or to respect are stemmed by notions of "zero tolerance."
Thus, it is fitting that if "zero tolerance" gets a kid an arrest record for carrying his pocketknife to school or for a schoolyard brawl, it should get a Mayor arrested for DUI. Welcome, public officials, to the world we live in.